A Manufactured Controversy

There are some things in life that are so Goddamn awful that the English language as we know it just doesn’t convey our emotions. I know a good twenty or so words, and fuck is one of my most highly rated, but even that doesn’t do justice to the feeling when I watch the news and see someone as fucking fucked up as that fucker Sarah Palin. But she now knows how I feel, because she’s seen something so horrendous that she felt the need to invent a new word. What can be so dreadful to cause such a commotion? What minor local issue can be so important that a President’s reelection could lie in the balance because of it? Well fuck me if the Muslims haven’t arrived in America, Sharia law in tow, and it starts right now in down town lower Manhattan.

With a name like “Ground Zero Mosque” I must admit I was expecting something pretty awesome. Fuck whose religion it is, spending £100 million on a bad ass building is cool. I was expecting a giant monstrosity of a building, one that requires Satan’s PA system every time it calls people to prayers. At the very least I wanted surface to air missiles, machine-gun turrents, and enough small arms to fuel a military coup. And judging by how people are going on, that’s what we’re going to get.

Except we’re not. The Ground Zero Mosque is A) Not at Ground Zero and B) Not a mosque. As far as names go “Ground Zero Mosque” is pretty bad. The best explanation comes from Keith Olbermann, with his shit hot American accent:

So, ok, it’s isn’t a mosque. But isn’t it, you know, a bit Muslimy, and aren’t they all, like, terrorists? The Imam behind it all has committed such hideous Jihadi offences such as working with the FBI, and lecturing against Islamic extremism. But the board, maybe they’re all evil and beardy? Well let’s look at the board;  A Catholic nun, a Vice President of a Jewish center and an under-Secretary-General of the UN. Clearly Bin Laden has hand picked these people personally to lead the Islamic assault on America.

We can also ask ourselves, if this isn’t a mosque at Ground Zero, why is it being described so? The answer is obvious; calling it accurately as a “Islamic community center open to people of all faiths a good distance and completely out of sight of Ground Zero” will not provide ire among the population. By calling it this the right acknowledges the fact that the truth is not anywhere near as controversial. The reasons for doing so I will return to.

So if “The Ground Zero Mosque” isn’t as it seems, what’s the controversy about? Well the criticism essentially is this; the 9/11 attackers did what they did in the name of Islam. Therefore to build something Islamic near Ground Zero is either a “victory” for terrorists, or an insult to the victim’s memories. It’s a pretty small victory, if a community center opposing fundamentalist Islam was built two blocks away from Ground Zero. Doubtless that is exactly what Bin Laden hoped would happen nine years after the attacks. And it’s a pretty big insult, a community center that the families of the victims will never see, and wouldn’t have heard of if not for the huge controversy.

So why the controversy? It’s not a mosque, it’s not near Ground Zero, it’s not run by radicals. In short there’s nothing any reasonable person would get worked up about. But if we look at where the controversy is coming from, the far right, then a dark and cynical reason emerges.

The far right don’t don’t care about this multi-culturalism nonsense, coexistence or any of that; they want a far right Christian state, and everything else be damned. Looking at the “mosque” issue this way tells us that instead of what most people perceive; that this is an irrational campaign based on ignorance, that actually this is an entirely rational campaign to attack mainstream Islam.

The anti-Islam movement fears the moderate Muslims far more than the radicals. It’s easy to turn people against Al Qaeda. They fly fecking planes into buildings forchristsake. But to turn people against the Muslims who want to live peacefully, who want a liberal state, who are quintessentially American, is far harder. Hence either A) Trying to link all moderate Muslim groups with radicals or B) Claim Islam itself is the problem.

With the community center we’ve seen both of these tactics, to varying success. But the latter has been more effective. As the article says, the only opposition to the community center can lie in either ignorance or holding all of Islam responsible for the attack. Over 50% of Americans oppose the building of a “mosque”, so the Christian right have succeeded in getting the majority of American people to essentially unite against Islam. And it is only a small step from “no mosque at place X” to “no mosques anywhere.” That is what the right wants. Indeed this is starting. As the Guardian writes the controversy over the mosque is “fuelling anti-Muslim protests across US”.

The irony is this attitude plays into the hands of Al Qaeda and militant Islamic organizations. Al Qaeda and the Christian far right are partners in the same game. Both give each other what they need. They are each others greatest ally.

It’s difficult to tell just how much they know their actions benefit militant extremists. They could just be ignorant, but there are more worrying possibilities.

George Bush’s administration was heavily influenced, and indeed staffed, by these sorts of people. The Bush administration pushed on with policies (the most obvious being the Iraq War) that they knew would cause an increase in the possibility of further terrorist attacks. Indeed terrorism has increased sevenfold since the invasion of Iraq, in line with the predictions the Bush administration ignored, putting short term interest ahead of the safety of their nation. So the possibility exists the anti-Muslim crowd know their actions increase the chance of terrorism, but push on with it nonetheless, as the benefits of stoking Islamophobia outweigh the safety of their country.

A third, even more worrying possibility exits; they push on with their actions in the knowledge that their actions increase the chance of terrorism, and that is a factor in why they do it. If we understand attacks by radical Muslims further the agenda of the anti-Muslim crowd, then logically it follows they hope for further attacks, knowing it will play into their hands, and create a perpetual cycle which benefits their agenda, at the expense of the wellbeing of perhaps the entire world. This may be a step too far for some people, but considering many on the Christian right practically pray for nuclear Armageddon, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

Regardless of why, it is clear the actions of the right are endangering us all. Liberals and the left must not cower from the challenge. Joining in with the bellicose words of the right only makes things worse. American liberals need to grow the pair of balls they have so desperately been missing and stand up to the right. The right are winning. This controversy has been beneficial to their cause, as they doubtless knew when creating it. This isn’t about a mere Islamic center; this is about Islam’s wider role in American society. This could be a large step in turning the American people against all Muslims.

They came first for the Muslims…


Just an example of the far right stoking up the controversy to further their own ends is the Coalition to Honour Ground Zero. The website for which is owned by the neo-conservative Frank Gaffney. Some of Gaffney’s enlightened thoughts are that Obama is a Muslim and is trying to impose Sharia law on America by, well, your guess is as good as mine as to what he’s smoking to come up with that conclusion. The Mission Statement bemoaning certain mosques as “Trojan Horses” echoes the concept of the “latency phase” where Muslims are coming in as undercover terrorists, with little baby terrorists.